Muslims, Hindus, and Christians…oh my!


“My father is Islam, but not fundamentalist,” she’s quick to add. “My mother is Christian. Next month I’m going to a monastery in India to study with my guru there. I go every year for three weeks.”

“So you’re Buddhist?” I’m more than a little intrigued.

“Oh yes, but my passport says Muslim because my husband is Muslim and in Indonesia…” she pauses.

“The wife must take the husband’s religion,” I finish for her and she laughs.

“But before I married him, I made an agreement. You call it a prenup, yes?”

“You made a prenuptial agreement, really Meli? Here, in Indonesia?”

“Well, I had already divorced one husband because he wanted to tell me what I couldn’t do, so I learned from that. This time I would make sure I could practice Buddhism and go every year to the monastery. So I made the contract. If he agrees…marriage. If he doesn’t…bye-bye!”

I’m in awe of this feisty, well-educated, forty-something woman. She tells me that her man agreed to the terms and they’re quite harmoniously married. They live in Bali where the religion of choice is Hindu. “I also make offerings to keep the peace between good and evil as my Balinese friends do.” The corners of her eyes crinkle and she winks. “When my husband notices he says, ‘What are you doing? That is a Hindu practice.’ So I stop until he leaves and then continue.”

Where else on earth? I can’t conceive of another place like this. Bali is a feast of diversity, a conundrum of befuddling opposites, a loveable, laughable hodgepodge of unique people who are slow to judge and quick to call you family. They are who they are without apology and that gives me the freedom to be me, the warts, the contradictions, the glorious all of who I am because there’s no rigid, this is the way, walk ye in it! Rather, an Indonesian person will say, “Well, you can go this way, but today there is a ceremony, the road is closed, so maybe you go around, it’s a little longer, but you will see the rice terrace, or my cousin can show you the small roads, I’ll call him now, or maybe you wait until tomorrow.” Bali, the land of endless possibility, if not today, tomorrow!


Black Ghost

I wait, standing a bit back from the crowd around the stainless steal corral, eyes scanning the trickle of humanity exiting the airport. The double glass doors marked with ‘DO NOT ENTER’ symbols, whoosh open and closed, spitting out dazed and weary travelers. I am early. It will take about half an hour for my American friend to clear customs. I’m cognizant but not expecting to see the familiar face quite yet.  

I allow my mind to drift into a semi dream state and mindlessly observe the flow of nations streaming past. Suddenly my skin prickles and the air takes on a strange quality. It is as though a vacuum has been created in the space around me and time stops. A dark form floats past in a cloud of expensive perfume. Shrouded in fabric, lightweight and of finest quality, I see nothing but her eyes yet I know she is beautiful. With each step the hem of her garmet ripples and billows slightly but the tiny feet remain hidden.  She skims the earth. The air stirs with the cool touch of her passing. My eyes are glued, my heart barely beats, I am holding my breath.

The man with her is appropriate. He has been polished to a bronzed glow. His hair glistens, every strand of it perfectly in place. Immaculately clean, groomed, manicured, he is flawless. But I only glance at him. It is the woman who engages my fantasy. I pause in a space between bias and judgment to acknowledge a glimmer of understanding. Whatever form inhabits the drifting cloth is clear to the imagination only. The woman inside is safe from carnal eyes yet she has seduced me. I watch them as the crowd folds in behind them and they are out of sight.

A tall girl in 6″ platforms with a skirt barely there strides by. Her tattooed escort lopes a few steps behind. Dreadlocks wrapped with colorful bits of yarn brush his waist. I remember the couple only for the exaggerated contrast. Something dark and negative dissolved in my heart today. The black ghost stole it as she glided by. I feel much lighter without the weight of my prejudice.

Black Ghost

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